Several years ago you posted “Five Reasons Zombies Could Never Defeat the Military.”
But how would the military do against kaiju? Giant monsters like Godzilla and King Kong?
In the movies, they don’t do well at all. Soldiers get killed, tanks melt, planes crash, all the while shells and bombs explode harmlessly, doing little more than annoying the monster (if even that).
But in reality?
Hey Dave, great to hear from you again!
Oh boy, kaiju vs the military, surely an epic battle for the ages. We must really push our minds to the limit to figure out who would win in a clash of such titans.
Just kidding, it’s not even close. Kaiju as they are traditionally portrayed would be completely annihilated. The reason is simple: a modern military can engage the kaiju without any risk of being engaged itself.
In kaiju movies, you always see planes fly right up to the monster and strafe it with their cannons, or tanks drive into the kaiju’s feet at ramming speed. But any real anti-kaiju operation would be launched from far outside the kaiju’s reach, possibly from extremely high up in the atmosphere, or even over the horizon.
Modern artillery, smart bombs, and cruise missiles can all attack from so far away that it would be more like a demolition than a battle. Laser guided bombs, for example, are often dropped from three or four miles up, and that’s on the shorter end of engagement ranges. Even Godzilla’s radiation breath would be useless at such distances. There’s always the question of whether modern weapons could lock onto a kaiju, but enough of them can be manually guided that it wouldn’t matter.
Another thing kaiju movies do to trick us is only show us a handful of vehicles attacking at once, maybe a dozen or so. That’s not how it would go. A decently sized air force like France’s has over 200 modern jets, and it’s unlikely many of them would be held back. While not all of them could be in the air at once, that’s still a lot more than any movie will show you, and the USA’s air force is much bigger. Once you consider ships, missiles, and artillery, modern militaries can bring a truly staggering amount of firepower to bear on something the size of a kaiju.
The final question is whether these weapons would actually hurt the kaiju in question. Maybe the whole movie would just be Godzilla walking around under a constant torrent of explosions, not really caring. That’s always possible since kaiju are fictional, but it’s not how they’re usually portrayed. For one thing, such a battle would be more comedic than exciting. But more importantly, movie kaiju still need to be vulnerable to damage, usually from other kaiju. And since these other kaiju aren’t punching hard enough to crack the mantle, it seems unlikely they can be immune to the forces delivered by bombs.
Of course, since kaiju are fictional, writers can change them in any number of ways to shift the battle. We can make the kaiju super fast or give them some kind of anti-aircraft countermeasures. Heck, you can even flood the zone with kaiju if you want, having them attack in huge waves rather than one at a time.
The problem is that it’s really hard to give kaiju everything they’d need to defeat a modern military and have the story still work. After a while, it starts to get pretty contrived, or the kaiju start to operate like an enemy army rather than a giant monster. Remember how Godzilla had an EMP power in the 2014 movie? Not only is that a completely useless ability against the other monsters he’s supposed to fight, but also it doesn’t even have the range to work against modern militaries.
So there you have it. Kaiju defeat the military not because it makes any sense, but because we want to see them do it when we buy our movie tickets. Hope that answers your question, and good luck not getting eaten by Godzilla!
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Comments on Could Kaiju Defeat the Military?
The demons I write about are 100% invulnerable to any kind of physical attack; you need magic to defeat them (and the magic isn’t of the “throw fireballs/shoot laser beams” variety either, i.e., it doesn’t mimic physical attacks). But for precisely that reason, you never see the military trying to defeat a demon. Lots of resources are put into creating magic weapons that anyone, not just mages, could wield against demons, but it’s a hard nut to crack. Meanwhile, people just call on mages when a demon appears.
What I wanna say is that it’s fine to invent a fictional monster or creature that can’t be defeated by conventional weapons, but in that case, big military battles make no sense anymore. One can’t have the cake (cool military battles) and eat it too (the monster just shrugs off anything the army can throw at it).
I wonder whether in such a world, the military wouldn’t have a magical division for such attacks – hiring mages, so they can still deal with demons.
I haven’t arranged things like that, but what’s the most efficient organization will depend on the exact details of the scenario (which I haven’t gone into here).
It depends on how said fictional monster is created in the story IMO.
Magic works fine as a source of invulnerability as it can have basically any effect.
But when Kaijus are created through radioactivity, chemical spills, genetic modification or similar, it strains credibility for such conventional sources to result in invulnerability to all other conventional weapons.
I wonder why a world with Godzilla and King Kong is as advanced as it is – it should be very poor, given all the skyscrapers they have to rebuild.
I think that in such a situation the military would activate any and all aircraft, even those at the so-called bone-yards. So we would see not only F-35 planes but also F-4, F-105 or maybe even F-89. The more missiles and bombs, the better.
I wouldnt be surprised that in the event of such an attack the military would build special planes just for such an attack.
And if explosions dont work: Imagine a missile with a hardened tip fired from a plane flying at very great height (I am looking at you U-2 aka plane flying at 90.000 feet). Just the impact (mass multiplied by speed) would have an impact on the monster.
King Kong, the original kaiju, went down under concentrated machine gun fire from a mere four planes, so there’s precedent for even bullets to work.
The second kaiju, the rhedosaurus from The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, was immune to bullets, but was vulnerable to relatively light weapons. The catch was that it was also carrying a deadly disease in its blood, so shooting it to pieces would be a worse disaster than letting it rampage.
It’s only when Godzilla enters the picture that conventional weapons become useless. And for Godzilla, it ties in to the movie’s theming that conventional weapons don’t work.
Oooh, I like the diseased blood idea as a way to explain why you shouldn’t try to hurt it. Of course depending on the situation, it’s either impossible to overcome and you have to find a way to appease it, or a piece of cake and you just drop the nuclear weapon which will vaporise any disease it could have carried.
Unless the pathogen it carries is immune to or worse, thrives from nuclear radiation, like the moss in Chrenobyl.
Nah, even if a pathogen thrives on radiations it wouldn’t survive a 2km wide concentrated of heat that literally vaporises metallic building in less than a second and set everything on fire beyond that.
I mean, Kaiju’s are impressive and all, but unless they’re a Cthulu style monstrosity, not even a cell of them would survive that
There’s actually a mythological story that involves appeasing lions with cake… Also a very conceited princess who doesn’t want to marry. It’s super crazy
If a kaiju is vulnerable to the full might of the modern military, there are several workarounds:
1. If six F-35s will kill it, it will take time for word of the monster to get out, authorization to be issued, and planes to be launched. How many people will die in the meantime? Your heroes need to keep the monster occupied with whatever resources they have until the military can bring the hammer down (also allows for a “cavalry arrives” climax).
2. As with the rhedosaurus I mentioned earlier, the military could blow the monster to pieces, but that would be a bad idea.
3. The monster attacks in an isolated area while communications are down, and there are limited resources available. Sure 50 M1 Abrams could take it apart in five minutes, but all we’ve got is the contents of a national guard armory.
4. Do a period piece, so military units in general are less powerful.
“1. If six F-35s will kill it, it will take time for word of the monster to get out, authorization to be issued, and planes to be launched.”
Estimates I’ve heard are around 15 minutes to scramble jets. Slower than most people think, but fast enough to make a bad movie, and hard to make a good story out of. A slow buildup is necessary, a sort of mystery in the beginning, and only have the last 15 minutes actually involve the monster.
“The monster attacks in an isolated area while communications are down, and there are limited resources available.”
This would also allow you to scale down the threat. You don’t need a 16 story tall monster; something the size of a house works just fine. The threat is immediate; the tension is built on the question of whether a handful of people will survive, not the whole world. And let’s face it, that’s a more powerful tension most of the time.
“Do a period piece, so military units in general are less powerful.”
Interestingly this seems to have happened several times in European history (I can only speak to European history, as my interests in human history haven’t extended beyond–I would be interested in hearing other examples from other locations).
Everyone today mocks Hannibal for bringing elephants over the Alps, but that ignores the realities of the period. Most people never traveled more than a hundred miles from home, and to the Romans elephants were truly monstrous, in a way that only kaiju can capture today. They were huge beyond any living thing they’d seen; they were built totally different from anything they’d seen; they were practically invulnerable. The mere presence of an elephant on a Roman battlefield would have had a profound, and sometimes overwhelming, psychological effect. The Romans succeeded in capturing some and killed them in the gladiatorial arena to show that they were not invulnerable–they were in fact mere creatures of flesh and blood, and could be killed like anything else.
It’s also worth examining the early pictures of St. George and the Dragon. We’re used to thinking of dragons as huge, fire-breathing monsters, but the older the pictures are, the smaller the dragon. In the oldest pictures the dragon is the size of a reasonable alligator or monitor lizard (the poisonous bite suggests the latter). That’s not to downplay the creature–folks unused to reptiles and crocodilians of that size can be completely overwhelmed when confronted with one. Happened to me with an 8′ long lizard near the Med Sea. For that culture, a crocodile or alligator was a kaiju.
To provide one more example, one of the things Louis and Clark were doing in their famous expedition was looking for monsters. A common idea at the time was that extinction didn’t happen, animals merely moved to less-favorable habitat (this does sometimes happen). Louis and Clark were looking for monsters known only by their fossils. They didn’t find any, but that doesn’t mean we can’t speculate as to what would happen had they done so. Instances of the most powerful weapons being ineffective occurred around that time period (Old Ironsides), and while it’s unlikely an animal had such powerful armor it’s plausible that a glyptodon or sloth (which had osteoderms, bony plates in their skin) could have survived certain kinds of musket fire (such as wet powder or extreme range). Once they saw a few musket balls bounce off harmlessly the hunters would be terrified.
So this is entirely possible. All it would take is a few small tweaks and you could easily base a story on these events.
The period piece explanation is why I enjoy War of the Worlds so much. The artillery deployed by the British army is the height of technology, and dangerous enough to destroy Martian fighting machines with a hit. What really highlights the threat of the Martians is their response to the threat of artillery: a changed strategy.
The tripods function as kanji in their own right, but also as distinct pieces of an order of battle, which means they remain threatening even when several are destroyed.
You could also go the Lovecraft/Evangelion route, and give the kaiju some ability beyond just being physically huge and strong. Force-fields, mind-altering effects, EMP, ect. Though going to overboard on this may defeat the purpose of it being a kaiju instead of something else.
Tying into this, note that nearly every popular kaiju story uses them as a stand-in for some real-world issue. Godzilla was origionally about nuclear warefare, but in the modern reboot the kaiju as a whole are about climate change (I think? It’s a little vague). Build the creature and it’s powers around this.
For a worked example: You wan your monster to be an allegory for America’s most recent string of wars, which now stretches decades long due go vague goals, mission creep, and unintended consequences. So: The monster has extreme regeneration abilities, so much so that the blood and flesh knocked off of it in the fighting gives birth to new, smaller monsters or even more extreme and horrifying design. Fighting the monster conventionally just causes more to spawn in it’s wake, so some other way must be found.
Thank you for this answer
I am considering placing this in the early 20th century, so that should help
Again, thank you
That’s probably a good idea. Going back in time and thus in technology level often makes it easier to show a creature or person as being far more powerful than they would be by today’s measures. At the beginning of the 20th or end of the 19th century, a Kaiju would be far more threatening than today.
“For one thing, such a battle would be more comedic than exciting. ”
I’m not sure what description I would use for an unstoppable monster killing thousands while humanity’s most advanced weaponry falls impotently off it like rain off an army tank and it becomes clear we have no chance to stop it, but “comedic” wouldn’t be near the top of the list.
I note that in “The Nightmare Stacks” by Charles Stross (part of his “Laundry Files” series), magic-using “elves” invade Britain, and attack using acid-spewing dragons. There’s plenty of detail about their combat with a contemporary air force…
Godzilla is from the 50s as an allegory to nuclear weapons, it is killed in the first movie, the second movie features a Godzilla building from the souls of the dead on the Nagasaki/Hiroshima bombings. So instead an ancient dinosaur or a mutated lizard they are fighting magic, basically.
I read a story online where Kaiju had a non-newtonian gel as their skin. The gel works like skin under normal conditions, but when exposed to force it solidifies into a substance harder than stone.
All the military’s bombs and all the military’s shells and all the military’s bullets accomplish nothing against the monster, except to make it stand still for a few seconds.
Then the militaries all over the world build giant robots to battle the kaiju with huge swords because slow moving objects go through their skin without turning it into armor.
Also, a word on military jet deployment:
It takes about 15 minutes to turn on a jet aircraft, that is, go from sitting at alert ready status to taking off.
Depending on which city is neing hit by a kaiju, the jet might need to fly ten to fifteen minutes to get there.
Plus, a CAP flight over a US city needs to be authorized by higher-ups in the chain of command.
Realistically, a Kaiju could rampage through a coastal US city for nearly an hour before scrambled jets would start to drop ordnance on it.
But more realistically, a Kaiju would be picked up by the SOSUS array at least 500 miles off the coast and would find airborne military asets in place as soon as it broke the surface of the water.
Well, the way I think about it, kaiju basically have to be magic, essentially, given the square-cube law – and that’s not even counting the other powers they tend to have. So you can give them whatever you want. That said, I do get the article’s point that giving them too many powers can make them not really seem like kaiju. Therefore, I was thinking about the simplest possible points to add to counter the issues mentioned (you can of course give your kaiju more or other powers – this is just the least I personally thought of to keep them “kaiju-like” and not too complicated):
1. Give them attacks with ranges that match what modern militaries can have (and the senses to detect distant attackers). It seems like just increasing the range of things like fireballs, radiation breath, EMPs, and so on should work for this. This may be troublesome to depict in a visual medium (I think there’s a similar problem with things such as “realistic” spaceship engagement ranges). I’m no expert in movie-making and such, but perhaps you can mess with the way distances are portrayed on-screen?
2. Allow big weapons to affect them to some limited degree, if you still want military battles, but it takes a lot to actually defeat them. This allows them to not be taken out quickly, but because they aren’t completely immune, there’s still a reason to send the military against them and have the epic, drawn-out slugfests.
3. Make kaiju have a special vulnerability to other kaiju if you want kaiju vs kaiju fights. As kaiju don’t obey the normal laws of physics anyway, it’s fine for them to be damaged by the attacks of other kaiju much more than by military weapons, even if the latter “ought to” be more powerful than the former. I think there might be a set of rules for some role-playing game that explicitly have kaiju resisting all non-kaiju damage, but unfortunately I can’t remember exactly what it was.
Incidentally, the third point is what inspired me to think of magic specifically first (although of course, the other points I brought up would probably involve magic as well). It also sounds a bit Lovecraftian, but you don’t really have to play up that angle unless you want to (but I think eldritch abominations can be quite cool). Do these by itself work, or is there anything else about modern military capabilities that I haven’t taken into account here?